Striated muscle shows an amazing ability to adapt its structural apparatus based on contractile activity, loading conditions, fuel supply, or environmental factors. Studies with mammalian hibernators have identified a variety of molecular pathways which are strategically regulated and allow animals to endure multiple stresses associated with the hibernating season. Of particular interest is the observation that hibernators show little skeletal muscle atrophy despite the profound metabolic rate depression and mechanical unloading that they experience during long weeks of torpor. Additionally, the cardiac muscle of hibernators must adjust to low temperature and reduced perfusion, while the strength of contraction increases in order to pump cold, viscous blood. Consequently, hibernators hold a wealth of knowledge as it pertains to understanding the natural capacity of myocytes to alter structural, contractile and metabolic properties in response to environmental stimuli. The present review outlines the molecular and biochemical mechanisms which play a role in muscular atrophy, hypertrophy, and remodeling. In this capacity, four main networks are highlighted: (1) antioxidant defenses, (2) the regulation of structural, contractile and metabolic proteins, (3) ubiquitin proteosomal machinery, and (4) macroautophagy pathways. Subsequently, we discuss the role of transcription factors nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2), Myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2), and Forkhead box (FOXO) and their associated posttranslational modifications as it pertains to regulating each of these networks. Finally, we propose that comparing and contrasting these concepts to data collected from model organisms able to withstand dramatic changes in muscular function without injury will allow researchers to delineate physiological versus pathological responses.

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Keywords antioxidant pathways, macroautophagy, mammalian hibernation, muscle mass, structural proteins, ubiquitin proteosomal machinery
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Journal Biomolecular Concepts
Tessier, S.N. (Shannon N.), & Storey, K. (2016). Lessons from mammalian hibernators: Molecular insights into striated muscle plasticity and remodeling. Biomolecular Concepts (Vol. 7, pp. 69–92). doi:10.1515/bmc-2015-0031